The Best Advice for Preventing and Destroying Bed Bugs

Bed BugsIngo Arndt/Minden Pictures
Bedbugs are like the cast of Real Housewives: They’re everywhere and almost impossible to eradicate. What’s the best advice for preventing and destroying America’s newest scourge?

1. Keeping them out of your house is goal No. 1. Check your own bed (and any other beds you may stay in) with a flashlight, looking along mattress seams, ruffles, the headboard, the bed frame, walls, baseboards, etc., for the telltale dots and rusty-reddish stains.

2. Some frequent travelers walk into a hotel room and immediately seal up their suitcases in one of those giant reclosable ziplock bags, reaching in to grab what they need and then reclosing the bag. Others pack their clothes inside ziplock bags inside the suitcase. Back at home, some even leave their suitcases outside in extreme cold or extreme heat to kill any bugs that may have hitched a ride. Others run their clothes through the dryer.

3. Remember that upholstered seats can harbor bedbugs, too, bringing a whole new level of horror to sitting in a movie theater or the doctor’s office.

4. Anyone can complain and post a report of bedbugs at, though some hotels claim they are being unfairly maligned by customers disgruntled for other reasons.

5. Many experts recommend buying a good-quality zipper casing for mattresses and box springs—before or after an infestation. Bedbugs can live more than a year without feeding (but better entombed in plastic than running free under the sheets).

6. Taking things to a higher level, some wary sleepers plant the legs of their bed in special moatlike protectors that keep bedbugs from traveling freely to and from other areas of the house.

7. PackTite makes a $309 portable oven for luggage and other possessions, though it’s not big enough for some suitcases.

8. Before you hire bedbug-sniffing dogs, keep in mind that that method may not be foolproof.

9. Some moving companies are marketing themselves as bedbug-sensitive: They heat their moving blankets and trucks between jobs to kill pests.

Sources: Amanda Hodges, Southern Plant Diagnostic Network, University of Florida; Joseph LaForest, Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, University of Georgia; Environmental Protection Agency; Time; Bloomberg Businessweek; Wall Street Journal; Washington Post.

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